Roger Federer has reached just two Grand Slam finals in his last 12 appearances. Last week, he was eliminated in the Australian Open semifinals for the third straight year. Despite the fading results, it's far too early to starting betting against him.
There's been a noticeable change in the conversation surrounding Federer, and it was amplified following his loss to Andy Murray in Melbourne. For so many years, the discussion was always about when he would win another major.
Usually, fans didn't have to wait long. But now the words if or will are being used with much greater frequency, insinuating Federer's days of winning the four biggest tournaments may be over.
Not so fast. Although most tennis fans would probably agree that the Swiss superstar's days of completely dominating the competition en route to multiple major titles every season are over, his days as a top contender are not.
Don't forget, we're talking about a player who's reached the quarterfinals of every Grand Slam event since Wimbledon in 2004. No extended injury layoffs, no shocking upsets against inferior competition and no succumbing to tough draws.
Sure, the quarterfinal exits have become more common than the major championships in recent years. But he keeps giving himself chances to win by reaching the second week of a major so often.
The road to a title is obviously more crowded now with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in the picture. Add Rafael Nadal to that list when he's healthy. And it won't be getting any easier as players like Juan Martin del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Milos Raonic assert themselves.
That said, to think Federer isn't capable of going to distance a couple more times is crazy. At 31, he should have several good years of tennis in front of him and good tennis from Federer is still better than a vast majority of the players on tour.
All it takes is a couple weeks of strong play—like he strung together at Wimbledon last season—and a couple breaks in the draw and he's in business.
Right now, he's the proud owner of 17 Grand Slam titles. While 20 isn't as likely as it seemed a couple years ago, it's not impossible. That's less than one per year between now and 2016, which is the next Olympic season.
So while Federer's days of cruising to major titles without breaking a sweat are likely reserved for the memory of tennis fans, it's too soon to believe he won't win one ever again.